The death of a child is always devastating. Not just to the child’s parents but to everyone who hears of it. A child’s death is just against the natural cycle of things.
Hearing of the death of Micheal Martin’s (an Irish politician) seven year old daughter recently reminded me of something the American poet and essayist Thomas Lynch wrote.
Thomas Lynch is an undertaker, funeral director or what ever title one confers on those who look after our dead. So he is surrounded by death in the midst of his life. In the rearing of his family. His constant proximity to death - although he would point out that he’s no nearer to it than any of us but his handling of the dead gives him - we assume some inspired insight on what it is to be dead. It doesn’t of course. It does however make him think more about it than the rest of us probably ever do. This is all a long winded way of quoting him below. He says it so much better than I ever could (from ‘The Right Hand of the Father’ in ‘Undertaking – essays by Thomas Lynch’). I paraphrase him slightly in the second paragraph.
‘’When we bury the old, we bury the known past, the past we imagine sometimes better than it was, but the past all the same, a portion of which we inhabited. Memory is the overwhelming theme, the eventual comfort.”
“But burying infants we bury the future, unwieldy and unknown, full of promises and possibilities outcomes punctuated by our rosy hope. The grief has no borders, no limits, no known ends…….Some sadnesses are permanent. Dead babies do not give us memories. They give us dreams.”
I pray God I never have to bury my dreams.